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Holistic Benefits of Nature-Ally Learning

Connecting to nature, ourselves and our community,  is something every human needs, in order to grow and thrive. Traditional school systems offer much in the way of academia, but often fail to meet the need for movement, play time outdoors, and an authentic connection with peers. 

Over the last 15 years, the relationship between children and nature has been all but lost.  There is a correlation between that decline, and a society that focuses on measurable productivity. The absence of freedom in play contributes to an inability to focus  in the classroom, or cope with the day to day stressors of life.


Childhood is a time in our lives allocated for being present in our environment, and connecting to loved ones. However, children’s play is being displaced with things known to have adverse effects on our mental and physical health. Time is spent escaping the present, and tech outlets are being utilized as a coping tool.  We can bring that sedentary time to more balance with unstructured, sensory rich experiences, that provide  healthier coping tools, healthier relationships, and stewardship of the land.

 “Children are disappearing from the outdoors at a rate that would place them at the top of any conservationists list of endangered species if they were any other species in the animal kingdom.”  Tim Gill 

I would be remiss not to mention the impact of the recent global pandemic. Children have an unprecedented need for social engagement, along with unstructured time outdoors, in order to build emotional resilience. After years of isolation, restriction and collective anxiety, we must tend to these impacts with meaningful connection to self, others and the natural world.


Childhood in our culture has been altered, with an increase in stress, and a search for identity/belonging. 

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety and security come before all else. The need for social connection is a close second. Without this foundation,  the journey of cognitive learning and personal growth is much more challenging, if not  impossible.

Nature-Ally Learning has a strong focus on building the foundation of these needs, as a way to aid children’s schooling. Whether the child has been in the public school system or homeschooled, evidence suggests that the supplemental holistic benefits of Forest School are vital to the child’s ability to focus on their academics and retain the lessons taught in more formal instruction. 

-Leah Smith
Forest School Practitioner/
Early Childhood Educator/

Founder of Nature-Ally Learning

For a list of current programming 

check out our events page!

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professional development sessions

for your school or childcare centre

Nature-Ally Learning Forest School stives to meet Maslow's needs for children in our programs

Physical Needs    
Experiencing all weather/temperature conditions,  guided on how to self-regulate, and tend to their clothing layers as needed.
Snack/lunch will be  connected to their hunger levels, and they will tend to their needs independently
Learning basic survival skills like fire building and shelter making to build self-efficacy
Having adequate time to move and rest at one’s own pace
Consistent access to fresh air and open spaces

Safety Needs
Understanding the process of Risk Assessment as a way to empower personal safety.
Opportunity to assess risks in real time and build autonomy in keeping oneself safe.
Offering language and support by advocating for one's needs and having those needs met by the individual self, peers and caring adults.

Love and Belonging
Authentic, heart centered educators who practice presence and emotional awareness with the children.
Community culture is fostered within the groups of children. Participants are encouraged  to connect with peers in order to solve practical or social problems. 
Free- play with mixed age groups that allow for natural leadership in unique areas of skill and ability.


Freedom to choose their activity and participation level. Empowerment as the children learn to listen to their intuition. Build confidence, as they have their choices affirmed and encouraged. Inclusive and equitable consideration to all children , as we meet the needs of the individual. Recognition and acknowledgment given to each child or group of children when positive prosocial behaviour is witnessed. Compassion and curiosity offered to each child when behaviour is influenced by stress or emotional dysregulation. The opportunity to participate in tasks that build skill, help others, strengthen body and produce feelings of “I matter” Self-Actualization Opportunities to witness and participate in activities that are above skill level as incentive to grow Invitations to lead or plan activities for themselves and other children

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